Democrats Will Turn Focus to Trump Corruption

“Democrats are preparing to highlight allegations of corruption surrounding the Trump administration — and a legislative agenda to prevent future abuses — as they continue rolling out their party platform ahead of November’s midterm elections,” the Washington Post reports.

“The new Democratic focus on corruption as a campaign message marks a return to a formula that helped put Democrats into the House majority in the 2006 midterm elections — after numerous scandals including the Jack Abramoff and Duke Cunningham revelations put pay-to-play politics on the public’s political radar in a big way. Polling done after the election showed that the tide of corruption helped swing votes to Democrats, and the party’s official now sees signs of similar concerns among voters.”

Trump Has Taken Corruption to a New Level

Jonathan Chait: “People in government might have always given their donors more influence over their decisions, but they at least pretended that was not the case in public. The Trump administration is not even bothering to put up a facade.”

“The levels of corruption in this administration are simply staggering, and they range from open self-enrichment to openly selling policy to the highest bidder. The completely accurate sense that Trump and his party are out to get themselves and their friends rich is the administration’s gaping vulnerability. What’s especially odd is that nobody in the administration seems to have taken even cursory steps to address or paper over this weakness. They’re all just grabbing as much cash for themselves and their allies as they can, while they can.”

Former Congressman Found Guilty on 23 Felony Counts

Former Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX) “has been convicted of defrauding two conservative mega-donors and funneling their $1.25 million into personal and campaign expenses as part of what prosecutors have described as a white collar crime spree,” the Texas Tribune reports.

“A jury in federal court in Houston ruled Thursday afternoon that Stockman is guilty of all but one of the 24 felonies he was charged with last March.”

How Corruption Could Lead to Trump’s Undoing

Jonathan Chait: “To be out for yourself is probably the single most disqualifying flaw a politician can have… What’s truly shocking is how much petty graft has sprung up across his administration. Trump’s Cabinet members and other senior officials have been living in style at taxpayer expense.

“Not since the Harding administration, and probably the Gilded Age, has the presidency conducted itself in so venal a fashion… It should take very little work — and be a very big priority — for Democratic candidates to stitch all the administration’s misdeeds together into a tale of unchecked greed.”

Grimm Says ‘Corrupt Forces’ Were Behind Conviction

Former Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY), who served seven months in prison for tax evasion, blamed his conviction in 2014 on the “same politically corrupt team of players” that he claims is driving the Russia investigation, the New York Daily News reports.

He named former FBI director James Comey and former Attorney General Loretta Lynch as part of a “politically corrupt team of players” and blamed them for everything “from sabotaging President Trump with the Russiagate conspiracy theory” to “letting Hillary Clinton off the hook in 2016.”

Former Lawmaker Sentenced to 5 Years In Prison

Former Rep. Corrine Brown (D-FL) was sentenced to five years in federal prison for fraud and tax crimes that included raising about $800,000 for a sham charity, the Florida Times-Union reports.

Said U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan: “This is a sad day for everyone. I was impressed with all the outpouring of support for you, and I think it’s a tribute to all the work you’ve done over the years. That’s what makes this all the more tragic.”

Judge Declares Mistrial in Menendez Case

“A hopelessly deadlocked jury brought an abrupt end to the corruption trial of Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) with the declaration of a mistrial, after a contentious 11-week courtroom drama that concluded without a final act,” the Newark Star Ledger reports.

“The government now must decide whether to retry the Democratic lawmaker… Even without a verdict, the mistrial puts the political career of Menendez in the balance. Up for re-election next year, the senator faces the prospect of running for office as he is defending himself in any retrial.”

Menendez Trial In Turmoil

“Seven of the 16 jurors and alternates in the trial of Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) raised their hands when U.S. District Judge William Walls on Monday morning asked whether they’d heard or read anything about the case, prompting the judge to take them into his chambers individually to get more details,” the Newark Star Ledger reports.

“The inquiry came after defense attorneys in the trial noted that widespread news coverage of an excused juror’s public statements may have tainted the remaining members of the panel.”

Update: Jurors told the judge that they “are unable to reach a unanimous decision in the case and asked for guidance,” according to the Newark Star Ledger.

Dismissed Menendez Juror Suggests Hung Jury

“The juror dismissed from Sen. Robert Menendez’s bribery case said they began deliberations on Monday with nine of them — including herself — prepared to find him not guilty of the most serious charges. By Thursday, they were still deadlocked,” the Newark Star Ledger reports.

The juror “described a tense, sometimes combative, atmosphere in the jury room. The disorganized deliberations at moments broke down, with jurors speaking over each other, and at least once using foul language.”

Jury Begins Deliberations on Menendez

Jurors in the federal corruption trial of Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) could begin their deliberations on Monday, CBS Philly reports.

Jonathan Swan: “The jury could reach a decision any day now, and the case looms large over the Senate. Nobody in the leadership of either party will reveal anything about their plans to deal with this highly sensitive and explosive matter. But it’s high on their minds.”

This is a huge deal for the Senate and there will be many open questions if Menendez is convicted. What happens if Menendez appeals it? What will Mitch McConnell, who will play a key role, do? How will Chuck Schumer and Menendez’s Democratic colleagues respond? Would they call for Menendez to step down? And what reaction can we expect from the Senate Ethics Committee, chaired by the senior senator from Georgia, Johnny Isakson?”